Cleaning up the trash? EPA looks to reduce emissions at landfills

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to clean up the trash at landfills, where garbage is disposed of and buried.

The EPA announced new plans Tuesday to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at new and existing landfills across the country by as much as 20 percent over the next several years.

“Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement. “This latest step from the president’s methane strategy builds on our progress to date and takes steps to cut emissions from landfills through common-sense standards.”

New landfills would be expected to capture two-thirds of their methane emissions by 2023, a 13 percent increase from current standards, under new proposed rules by the EPA. It estimates this rule would only cost businesses $471,000 each year to comply.

The agency is also looking at a separate set of new standards for existing landfills.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, according to the EPA. It accounts for nearly 9 percent of greenhouse gas emissions around the country, but is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide when it comes to the impact it has on global warming.

There are about 1,000 landfills around the country, the agency said.

Landfills are one of the primary sources of methane emissions, but the current standards haven't been updated since 1996, prompting the EPA to act to reduce emissions at these waste management facilities. 

This comes as landfill emissions have declined by 30 percent since 1990 but are projected to increase going forward.

The public has 60 days to comment.